RONNIE JAMES DIO Remembered By Friends, Family, Bandmates At Resting Place
May 17, 2011, 9 years ago
It was one year ago yesterday (May 16th) that the world stood in shock as the immortal RONNIE JAMES DIO (BLACK SABBATH, DIO, HEAVEN & HELL, RAINBOW, ELF) lost his battle with stomach cancer at the age of 67.
Wendy Dio wanted to let the fans know that Ronnie's bandmates and close friends gathered at his resting place on Monday. Says Dio: "We had a beautiful prayer service followed by everyone sharing their special memories of Ronnie."
BW&BK; has closely followed the path of Dio since the early '90s, when the magazine first launched. In honour of the iconic figure, we've dug deep into our personal archives for some of his most memorable moments and quotes. Relive the magic...
The secret to surviving the music business? (2005):“I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that I’ve been pretty singularly directional when it comes to what I’ve done. I’ve not tried to span any generational gaps with music or followed any trends at all. I’ve always felt that if you attack one thing and attack it very well then the people who liked the same things that you do will not think that you’re trying to cash in on whatever fads that may be around. I think that’s one thing, for me and the bands that I’ve been in. I like one form of music an awful lot and I’m lucky enough to have been someone who’s kind of created some of those forms. For me it was always about really, really hard rock or whatever we have to call it these days. Metal music has transitioned itself, morphed itself into all these different names for it, whether it be speed metal, death metal, this metal, that metal. You know, for me it’s always been about rock ’n’ roll first, but always really hard rock ’n’ roll so I’ve stayed within those parameters but also tried to create something that was rather unique. I’ve not just been praised for being Mr. Fantasy within my writing but a lot of times I’ve also been severely thumped for it. Well, that happens in life. You know, ‘Well, we don’t wanna hear any more of this’. Well, you know, again, to me, the people who came up with me and who still like this style of music understand that I haven’t tried to jump from parameter to parameter and I’ve created a uniqueness for the bands I’ve been in, whether it’s Sabbath or Rainbow or Dio, and I’ve always had a consistency of melody, of content and direction. That’s what you’re going to get when you listen to Ronnie. I try to write in a way that makes the songs that I’ve been lucky enough to write, and with whomever I’ve written them, to be something that people have to think about. At the end of the day I write for them and about them and so it becomes their own kind of music and they have to make judgements. I’m putting a lot on the plate right here, but those are some of the real reasons I’ve been able to stay around longer than most. You know what you’re gonna get but at the same time you have to think about what you’re gonna get!”
On criticism (2004):"After a while, criticism doesn't even bother me. I already did Holy Diver, I already did The Last In Line, I already did Heaven And Hell, so doing them again wouldn't give me any satisfaction. Dehumanizer (Black Sabbath) is a great example; we got back together and everybody thought 'Here we go, Heaven And Hell ten years later,' but that was the farthest thing from our minds. We laboured extensively to make sure it wasn't a re-run, and that again disappointed a lot of people. It was a great album but it was misunderstood, as this new one probably will be, but I'm living for the moment. We live in a time when trying to compete with what is new and young out there is impossible. I'm not trying to do that. You'd have to be an idiot to be this old and try to compete with people who are that young, so I don't think of it that way. I just want to be sure that every time I do a new album that it isn't resting on the laurels of Holy Diver. I can compete with these younger guys from a talent perspective - I'll gobble up anybody who thinks they can sing better than I can in any way, shape, or form - but that's not the point. It's a competitive market, but I'm not geared for that anymore. And I won't be doing this forever (laughs)."
If you could pick one record to be remembered by (2005):“I’d pick ‘Heaven And Hell’. I loved being in that band at that time. I really enjoyed the people I played with so much. W e really bonded so well at that time. Obviously it doesn’t seem as though we did later on, but we certainly did then. We came from the same space. We all came from working class families and we were all very dedicated to the music we made. They’d really fallen apart. The couple albums they made before ‘Heaven And Hell’ were miserable failures and they were really a laughing stock. When I came into the band I felt so blessed to be able to do whatever I wanted to, to finally be in a band where no one said ‘Maybe you should do it this way’, and to be in a band that was so heavy that I could be as heavy as I wanted to be, and more importantly to succeed and to put that band back where it deserved to be. Plus, the songs are great. It’s a great album. But, again, it was an album that we did together. One of those magical things that happened. The Rainbow things are great and the Dio things are great, but from a life perspective, the joy that I had at that time, and the touring that we did and the bad and good things that happened – and that’s all part and parcel of life. We really stuck together and persevered and we succeeded together. I only ever wanted to be part of band. I never wanted to be the man in the band. I didn’t even want to be a singer. I wanted to be a bass player! But life dealt me those cards. That album was just spectacular. I’ve been lucky enough to be blessed with being part of three albums that defined three different generations. I think those are the ones that make me look back and say that no matter what happens I’ve been involved in three very special things and that’s enough for me.”
On Children Of The Night charity (2001):"I think charity work is important, but the best kind of giving you can ever give is anonymous because you’re doing it for yourself. There’s no way on earth that anybody could consider that you’re doing it for anything, but yourself. Unfortunately, I’m going to have to be at the head of a lot of this. So, I’m going to get a lot of the accolades or shit. I can’t give anonymously, but a lot of other people do and I think it’s important. It’s important to care about mankind especially kids. I mean, Good Lord, give me a break. It’s a charity that primarily deals with sexually abused kids. What these kids are going through is horrible. They just die. I know them then they’re gone. It’s just terrible. We should all do something. We try to get them off the street, if not, to save them forever, at least give them a modicum of a life that is certainly a whole lot better. You’ve gotta be a human being first ‘cause that’s what we all are. We just have different labels, ‘Oh, man! He sings great! Wow, he writes great!’. Labels are something they have to put on us, but we don’t have to believe them."
On being renowned for fantasy lyrics (2005):
RJD: “I think everything stems from your childhood, in truth. Hating your mother and wanting to screw her and hating your father and wanting to screw him. You know, whatever it may be! (laughs) Those things are your earliest impressions and if you have good parents who impress good things upon you and they allow you to be the person that you have to be, or if you’re abusive…well, that’s why we have people who turn out to be abusive parents later in life, because they were abused themselves. I was lucky that that didn’t happen to me. My parents wanted me to be open to the arts and open to education and open to being a good person, so I owe most of that to them. They allowed me and wanted me to be a reader, so I read very early on in my life. I’m an only child and a lot of the time you have spend a lot of time by yourself. I did that through novels, through reading things by Walter Scott and great science fiction writers, reading things about dragons and demons and wizards and witches and reading Edgar Rice Burroughs’ books early on. Those things were a great part of my childhood because what they did was make me use my imagination. I’ve never seen a dragon before. None of us have and we never will. It all comes from the imagination. That’s the way I wanted to write, so I hearken back on what I have to do which is to make my imagination work, so I’d put probably the same subjects that everybody writes about into different terms, into a different world, and that’s what made me more unique and loved or hated, whichever it was. I think that you get to a point where the bulk of your work seems to be only one thing. ‘Oh, he only writes about fantasy’, you know? Well, that’s utter crap and bullshit. Of course it’s not just about that. ‘Stand Up And Shout’ certainly isn’t about wizards and witches. It’s about people raising up their fists and kicking other people in the ass and going ‘Hey, I can be anything I wanna be’. So there’s a lot of misunderstanding, but people tend to grasp onto what they think you are and they’ll either vilify you or turn you into some kind of icon. It is a form that was there very early in my life and I felt that in order to be successful you should at least be unique. I didn’t want to write love songs. I don’t write love songs, but if I happen to touch upon emotional and passionate things then I put them in a different context. I put them in a different time, a different space, so one again people have to use their imagination. Make it your song. But then ‘Rainbow In The Dark’ is nothing to do with fantasy. Absolutely nothing. It’s purely about someone who’s been kicked in the butt all of their life and been told they’re too short, too tall, too fat, too skinny or whatever. A rainbow being so beautiful to my way of thinking…if you take a rainbow and stuff it in the closet then it’s not a rainbow anymore, so at that particular point perhaps I felt that way. I felt that I was going through a bad patch in my life so I wrote a song called ‘Rainbow In The Dark’. But as far as fantasy goes, I’m willing to bear the brunt of it just to be unique.”
Any chance that Dio might jump on the Black Sabbath reunion bandwagon? (2001):"I don’t think so. There’s too much bad blood. The only thing that really bothers me is as much as I cared about the band, really believed in what we did and had a great tenure, they seem to have tried to erase the fact that I was ever there and that really bothers me from a personal standpoint. For some reason, they have an agenda that precludes everything, but the ‘reunion Sabbath’ with Ozzy. Not even to acknowledge the fact that there was some really good music made during some other times is really silly. So, I’d like to think of them as friends and some guys I played with, who made some wonderful albums and did some incredible shows, but I don’t think I’ll do it again."
The birth of Heaven & Hell (2007):“It all was really predicated on the fact there was going to be an album released, Black Sabbath: The Dio Years. Everything stems from that. We did a show in Birmingham, in England, Tony's hometown, and Tony came to the show, couple years ago, and that's the first time I had seen him about 12 years, and I think that was maybe an icebreaker, I guess. But I was glad he was there. There was no underlying current of ‘Let's do this; let's do that,’ although we did talk in the bar before we did the gig, about how we were going to do this album, and it would be certainly more productive if we could write some more songs for it, so it wouldn't you just another rehash, ‘Oh, here's something they can make money on.’ But again, it was all predicated on doing this new album, the new songs for the album. The live gigs were never mentioned, nothing about that at all. We never talked about playing together again. We only talked about seeing whether there was any kind of timeframe to be able to write the songs. Writing the songs together, Tony and I just remembered how easy it was for us, and how good we were at writing songs together. So after we did three of them, it really just flowed out. It took a lot of time because I had touring to do, and I had to keep going back to England to implement these things. But in reality, it took almost no time to write three great songs. So I think that was when the seed was probably planted. Playing live… I think that was probably management at the end of the day. I would imagine that the record label would be involved as well. They certainly would like to see this thing supported that way. But it didn't come from us. It just seemed to progress from writing the songs, and it seemed like a viable thing to do it at this time.”
On reconnecting with Sabbath alumni (2007):"I'm a realist. Once it was over with me, with Sabbath both times, I just carried on with my life. And that's what you do. You just shrug your shoulders. But no, it's still pretty sweet, and you carry on. I didn't harbour any grudges against them. I didn't hate them. It wasn't difficult for me to even think about doing this. They haven't changed a bit. They're exactly the same way they were before and I'm exactly the way I am. You have to remember, we went through a lot together, and we had a lot of success together as well. And that's a pretty hard bond to break. So, once again, going back to the songs, that was so important that we wrote that material. Because once again it showed to all of us how good we were at it. It was always a bit of sadness for me that Tony and I couldn’t write together, because we did it so well, and really quite effortlessly most of the time. But once we wrote the songs, it became this… what they haven't been doing for years now, playing with Ozzy. And those are songs that really go somewhere melodically, and it made them work harder and it made me work harder - all those things that musicians really like to do. Those songs drove it back home to everybody. So there was never a problem personally, and once again, I think the music, the things that we wrote, and the enthusiasm and excitement about the songs, just tied up any loose knots. But once again, they were exactly the same.”
Does it please you that you have so many younger fans coming to your shows these days? (2005)“I don’t dissect audiences. An audience is an audience. Of course, I see young people out there and I see old people out there too. What’s kept most of us going is that the people who grew up with our music are still coming to see us, and if we had to rely on the newer generation to populate our audiences we wouldn’t be playing any gigs. That’s just the stark reality of it all. But still it’s good to know that there are young people out there who still admire good music, and I think that will always be the case. Okay, I’m satisfied that those people are out there but an audience is an audience. They’re here to hear good music whether their ears are 40 years old or 14 years old. My job is to appeal to each person in that audience. I don’t look at them as one big animal, as some artists do. I try to single them all out because I know I’m singing for all of them. It’s difficult at, say, the Wacken festival because there’s so many people that you can’t see them all, and so it’s more fun to play in a more intimate atmosphere, but I try to impart the feeling that I’m playing for each and every one of them, and the same is true of the rest of the band too.”
The fans (2004):
"The support we have is beyond belief. People are so adamant about what I've done because I've been fortunate enough to be in three bands that have made classic albums, from Rising (Rainbow) to Heaven And Hell to Holy Diver. And there were other great albums in between. Most careers last five years, if that, but mine has lasted so much longer than that because of the people I've played with and because of the fans who have always been there for me."
Rainbow Rising, Heaven And Hell, Holy Diver…you’ve been involved in several all-time classic albums. Has luck played a big part? (2005)“Sure! I don’t know how much I attribute it to the planets aligning or that kind of thing, but luck is involved. Of course. In anything that you do, if you’re there when the time is right it’s gonna happen. When I was lucky enough to form a band with Ritchie, the band Rainbow, it was because he was dissatisfied at that time with what was going on in his band and I happened to be in a band, Elf, that was the opening act for Ritchie at that time, and before that, of course, Roger Glover and Ian Paice had produced our first album and we came into the Purple fold at that time, so sure, everything was right at that particular point. With Sabbath, Tony was dissatisfied with the way the band was going. It was going nowhere, basically, and he wanted to make a change and I happened to be not in Rainbow anymore, so it was at the right point. In Dio, the right people came together to make such a magical album because I was not in any of those other bands. So yea, it was the right time. Sure, there’s got to be a lot of luck involved too, but you’ve got to take advantage of all that luck. I was lucky enough to have the opportunities and then I took advantage of them. And I’ve never done any of this alone. Sure, I’ve written some songs alone, by myself, that I consider things that I’m very proud of and that have gotten us from point A to point B, but without writing things with Vivian Campbell, Vinnie Appice and Jimmy Bain at the point when Dio was starting, or with Tony and Geezer and Billy Ward with Sabbath and certainly with Ritchie and having Cozy in the band, none of this stuff would’ve happened. I’ve been very blessed to have great people to work with and the credit for my success goes to them as well.”
Surviving physically in the music business (1999):"Singing is very easy for me, I'm lucky. I've been blessed with the talent and the brains to know what to do with it. You really have to look after your voice because it's all technique. If you believe in what you do the people will see that and that feeling hasn't changed. I'm in it for the music and the fans; they are really important to me. I love playing live. That's what I do it for. That's what I look forward to at the end of it all."
Being regarded as a legend (2005):“It always seemed very strange to me, to be thought of as this legendary figure, because legends are usually people who’ve died. Sure, there’s some who haven’t died and they deserve that accolade, but I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that I don’t think of myself that way. I don’t think of myself as a star or a superstar or a legend. To me, it’s my work. It’s what I do, and my job is always to be as good as I can be. If you start to listen to what people say about you, a lot of people start to backslide and think that they don’t have to work so hard anymore. For me, it’s hard work that gets you where you want to be. I was always brought up that way by my folks. Work hard at what you do, try to be the best you can be, don’t think so much of yourself because once you start believing what people say about you, you really do start to tread water. I’m very grateful for the things that people say about me, but in the end the only thing matters to me is the presentation that you get tomorrow, not what you get yesterday, because I’m only as good as what I’m gonna do tomorrow.”
(Thanks to Martin Popoff, Mark Gromen, Carl Begai, Mitch Lafon, Dom Lawson, Hakon Grav)